BEIJING, Dec. 19 -- Tiger Woods has no idea when he will return to competitive golf next year, despite being ahead of schedule in his recovery from reconstructive knee surgery.
The world No. 1 has been sidelined since winning the U.S. Open in June when he defied stabbing knee pain and a double stress fracture of his left tibia to clinch his 14th major title.
Ideally he would like to play in at least a warm-up event before the U.S. Masters in April, the first major of the season, but he knows that will depend on the pace of his healing.
"I've just been training and trying to get back, trying to get healthy enough to compete next year," Woods told a news conference on Wednesday on the eve of the Chevron World Challenge which he hosts.
"Everything has been right on schedule. I couldn't have asked for anything more. The strength has come back better than ever. I'm stronger than I've ever been in my legs.
"The range of motion is good. The only difference is I've just got to watch that I don't overdo it so the leg doesn't swell."
Asked when he expected to return to the PGA Tour, the 32-year-old American replied: "I don't know.
"I don't know how it's going to respond with repeated practice days and long days of practice trying to get back, and ultimately playing my way into shape. That's obviously going to take a little bit of time."
The April 9-12 Masters has been uppermost in his mind but he accepts he will have to take things on a day-by-day basis.
"As far as intention, yes, that's always been an intent," Woods said of playing at Augusta National. "As far as reality, that's two different things. I don't know.
"That's the most frustrating thing is the uncertainty. Everyone heals at different rates. I couldn't tell you and my surgeon can't tell you, trainers can't tell you.
"It is frustrating from that standpoint because I want to look forward to something, but I just look forward to day-by-day and I've had to learn how to process that.
"It's not the easiest place to come back," he said, referring to the prospect of making his first competitive appearance next year on the ultra-long and undulating Augusta layout.
"Would I want that scenario to happen? No, I wouldn't want it to. But if I can play, then I'd like to be able to tee it up."
Woods, who is two pounds lighter than when he triumphed at Torrey Pines in June, said he had started to hit full shots over the last two weeks but that his game was ring-rusty.
"As I've progressed through my shorter clubs, hitting fuller shots, you remember what it was like when you hit a full shot," he added.
"For me, the last time I really hit a full shot was at the (U.S.) Open. It didn't feel very good but it's something that everyone has to overcome and has to go through.
"If I had to play this week, my game is not ready for public consumption. I couldn't display it right you now. I wouldn't want to. I'm just not ready yet."
(Source: China Daily/Agencies)